the ancient city of Sobessos

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These 400 square meters belong to the structures built in the 4th or 5th Century. The area is divided into 2 rooms and a pillared main saloon. Each room has an intricate mosaic design laid out with geometrical designs made of different kinds of colored stones and glass. 

Around these 400 square meters, nearly a 100 graves were discovered. Only 10 were excavated. 9 of the these 10 had 5-8 skeletons belonging to little children. The 10th belonged to Diakon, Officer of the Church. No one knows what happened and why the population left but epidemics, famine, or invasions are the current estimations. 

sugar in a liquid state

Sugarmelon is by far my favorite fruit here in Turkey. It could be it’s bright yellow color or the outburst of sugar in a liquid state but I have a strong feeling it’s something else. Every time I walk by a rainbow display of fruits, the flavor catches my attention and decelerates my feet. It’s a mixture of what the outside woody layer entices you towards and what the inside beholds. Any temperature in your mouth is the absolute melting point for a sugarmelon, a perfect invitation.

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hitch hiking in a foreign land

Yes, I’m not going to lie. Among the three of us knowing fluent Hindi, fluent English, fluent Urdu and a bit of broken Arabic, there’s been a language problem. It took us one full day to figure out where to get the bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia. The journey to Otogar (main bus station) just to find this out was an adventure. The local public transportation is solid, only if you know 1) where you are going, 2) how you are going, and 3) the bus number or the metro station nearest to the destination. There is no guide, no brochure, and no information center. And by the time you figure this out, you have already mentally crushed the plan. Stick to the guided tours, and if you are adventurous, you will need to be brave & patient. We enjoy a bit of adventure, a little too much at times.

Can’t believe this but this time, we hitch-hiked on a truck for 70 km. We had already booked and paid for the house and exactly as planned, we also arrived at the Otogar 2.5 hours in advance. But as luck would have it, the only bus now available was to Aksaray, 70 km away from Cappadocia. The explanation by the seller was too convincing “its only an hour away, you take any minibus and no problem, only 10 Turkish Liras!” The bus seat allowed a 45 degree angle, the Turkish MTV was not too far off in competition, the crew served us chilled Pepsi and even checked on the number of travelers after every stop. As soon as we became comfortable, we were unadopted in Aksaray at 5:45am at a gas station where the conductor pointed towards the buses 100 meters away. However, those 100 buses weren’t of any use to us. For a minibus that starts only at 7:00am, we were told to stand by the side of the road and stop one. After waiting and losing hope, we asked the 7th person (in Turkey, it is 7 times a charm) and he was the lucky one to give us a ride. 

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20140711-115637-42997643.jpg The sceneray all around was breathtaking but throughout the journey, I was scared and kept on replaying the fighting match between Papa & the potential kidnapper. Of course, my 3 months of crossfit should come in handy as well. There were thousands of sunflowers to my right, all facing towards the sun but I kept checking out the size of his muscles, tiny. He was pure lean mass which might actually work against us. I bet my friend Mandy would be able to beat the shit out of him! Every 10 km milestone raised my confidence. It was a smart thing that I had already verified the directions on my iPhone so I knew the turns beforehand. The board for Goreme pointed east but he turned north. “Hmmm” I said but then a potential kidnapper wouldn’t offer you freshly picked cherries. We arrived safely and I finally realized there are some honest people still left on the planet who just want to help. The experience gave me chills and added to my adventures, and it also gave me a trigger to write but I’m still not recommending hitch hiking in a foreign land where there has been a language problem.

unaesthetic architecture

As soon as there is a little crack on the plate or a small tear in a cloth, we are ready to take a trip to Good Will. A little to our disliking and our minds have been trained to keep the receipts in a safe & secure environment. Let me put it this way – how many glasses do you own? Glasses specifically for water, wine, margarita, beer, and whiskey? Champagne without a flute? Maybe not, those flutes might be hidden in the back. Now don’t forget cups for tea and/or coffee. If you trust me or even if you are just wondering, please go and count the total number you own. And yes, make sure to count those shot glasses as well! In true sense of the reality and for ones who do like to wash the dishes right away, what we really need is a couple glasses, may be a couple more for the upcoming dinner party. At the end of the day & your esophagus, does it really matter what you pour where? A couple glasses is how most of ancient civilizations lived and many current ones still do.

Saime, a young Turkish lady, hosted us for a week in her humble house – a little house that had the bare minimum, and in other words, just enough. No two spoons were alike and there was a sample of glasses, each carrying its own shape & size. The unaesthetic architecture of her house with all required functionality and her shyly spoken “oh, it works” words has made me rethink what we really need vs. what we are now used to. Instead of the shower curtain rod, there was a thin rope knotted at both ends. In fact, one more knot and the height of the curtain was adjustable. You can’t do that with a fancy Home Depot cut-to-the-exact-mm rod. I’m just saying, it’s not that I’ll invest in a rope as soon as I get back. I’m just saying. For 2 days there was no wi-fi and for an afternoon, no water. But her smile never faded for there are more important things in our life than to forever be connected. We gave her a warm hug and invited her to California and Delhi, whichever direction she chooses first.

Now go and count the number of glasses.

a cup of cay

Istanbul, amidst the hustle & bustle, whether in Europe or Asia, and despite of thousand vendors, has limited types of tourist attractions, limited food specialities, and limited ways to truly entertain yourselves, with an exception of Turkish sweet delights. I freely use the word ‘limited’ but only in a positive sense. When the number of options are low, you don’t pick & choose. The ‘pick & choose’ is the evil us humans have cultivated but some other day on this topic. When the number of options are low, you don’t pick & choose. When you don’t pick & choose, you end up absorbing every bit and at the end, you have seen a country with all of its main constituents – culture, religion, lifestyle, people, food, environment, trade, sports, etc…

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My favorite this far has been to watch crowds of a jillion people each securing a seat at the cafés and sipping on cay. Cay is a strongly brewed Turkish tea with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s the ultimate wind-down activity of day. It warms up the food canal and makes a clear pathway for your nutritional back-fill tomorrow. Instead of seemingly never ending texts on pof or spending hours gazing at topless men selfies, a boy & a girl share a face to face chemistry over a garama-garam (steamy hot) cup of cay. Old couples walking down memory lanes, adolescent boys cracking jokes, and couples falling in & out of love over a cup of cay. No iPads, no looking at the watch, no worries. Just a small little sip at a time.

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proper & meticulous

No matter how many lessons I learn, new problems keep floating up. I checked multiple times for all the necessary electronics I needed to carry. Camera, battery, charger, iPhone, charger, headphones – all check! No, no laptop this time. I would like to experience what it is to be as technology-independent as I securely can. Rejoicing with over-confidence, I ordered a thin-crust, easy on cheese margarita @ the LAX. I had hours to kill and so I carefully chose a spot with an electrical outlet. While appreciating the beauty of my personal pizza, inhaling the marriage of flavors, and expressing it with a subtle smile, I took out my iPhone, already fitted with the cable only to realize I forgot to bring the actual cuboid-shaped charger, damn! That moment marked an instant curve change for my smile from convex to concave. Our minds are so trained that the 4 appropriate letters came together into a word. Eventually, as we all do, I forgave myself within milliseconds and convinced myself that my parents have 2 chargers already so it’s just a matter of my arrival.

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I finished the entire OK! magazine cover to cover and felt abreast on all critical world affairs. Miley still can’t get Liam to say yes, Taylor bought a little cat, and Kendra’s husband had an affair with a transsexual during her pregnancy. JLo broke up with Casper, Kimye had an extravagant birthday bash, and Angelina is ready for 2 more. I got so intensely involved in world news that when they announced the final boarding, I realized I was supposed to exchange dollars to lira. I repeated the same 4-letter word again! I guess I’ll do that at Heathrow or in Turkey.

Flight arrived late and despite of knowing how Heathrow is no better than a corn maze, I decided to stop and let go of some bodily fluids. As a payback, I had to use all of my crossfit stamina to climb up the escalators, and run with luggage at 7 mi/hr until I arrived at the gate. It was no less than a running 650 meters with a 20 pound wall-ball up the hill.

At last, I arrived at the Turkish empire. At the visa counter, a half-bald, pre-frustrated, and not the most beautiful of them all Turkish man said “You need to go back to India to visit an embassy to then get a visa for Turkey, so come back when you’ve done that.” Yup, the same 4-letter word! I smiled and gracefully asked for someone else who I could speak to. After another WOD and gazillion doubtful looks, I crossed the immigration. My passport expiring in Sep 2014 did not make the task any easier.

And so, after all these mistakes, a dead iPhone, a real scare, and 3 hours of wait @ the airport, I was able to catch the first bus to Taksim Square at 4:00am.

All these mistakes but I told myself this is one of those letting-go, stress-free, what’s the worst that could happen kinda trip, well hmmm! I was so close to not being able to enter Turkey but at least I brought my toothbrush!

By the way, this particular blog is dedicated to my friends who refer to me as proper and meticulous.

squatting on the seat

It takes a mental battle every single day to add 10 more pounds than you did last week, to further deepen that squat, or to stop from stopping yourself. Just when the mind says “I can’t,” the mind argues “Or can I?” Every win requires mental strength.

The plant grows based on the nutrients it gets and the size and composition of your belly reflects what you’ve been feeding it. Exactly in the same manner, your mind functions based on the messages it receives. It’s a constant match between ‘yes I can’ and ‘I doubt it!’ Stuff the mind with some positivity and the body shall follow.

There is a continual itch to improve. I’m swaying my eyes left to right wondering if I should say this out loud but every time I sit on the pot, I’m practicing how to get the posture right. I’m literally squatting up and down my toilet seat. Too late to now incessantly beat the ‘backspace’ button since what’s out is out! But yes, there’s an itch to continually improve.

Yesterday I couldn’t, but today I can. Today I can’t, but tomorrow I will. Awareness towards the inabilities is the very first step towards accomplishing it. Sprinkling a bit of 3 of the above will get you to tomorrow. And if not, you’ll enjoy the today much more than you did yesterday because you tried and you gave it your all. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do a hand stand push up, but my smirk says otherwise.

Don’t let the fear victimize you. You start from one single half-ass squat and you build. The beginning may be embarrassing but only the beginning will get you closer to the end. I started in college with no money. I started my career with zero experience. I started running with walking. That’s what you do.

Befriend the unknown and let powers be shown. Go and challenge a few, you just might conquer the new.

“Yesterday I couldn’t, but today I can. Today I can’t, but tomorrow I will.” – Ruhi Rastogi

Madness @ Madison!

mad men

Women in shapely dresses, Sterling’s obnoxious humor;  bottles of aging Scotch, and secretaries sharing a rumor.

Draper’s lack of monogamy, outbursts of anger; war among the partners, and wondering who would next land her.

Luscious red lipstick and men tall in suits; a grand exhibition of power where smoking creates a boost.

The 60’s so different with its own set of rages; the short hotel visits & differential in wages.

Achilles’ fork

Achilles

Some Greek yogurts can be mysterious or tricky.

I’m afraid to even take a single bite of this Chobani Greek yogurt, strawberry flavor. I went to the store and was super excited to break open the little 120 calorie container but I tried to contain my excitement since it was dinner time. I anxiously waited until the next morning, posed liked Achilles, ready to attack it with my fork, and tore open the cover. What I saw next, confused me. It was a thick layer of white yogurt. I immediately threw away the weapon and said to myself, “Where the hell are the strawberries? How come it’s pure white?” I spent the next 45 seconds doubting myself, “maybe I picked up the plain yogurt by mistake!” But no, it’s got the picture of not 1, not 2, but 3 pretty strawberries. I kept digging hoping to hit the treasure, and I finally saw the yogurt change color.

While yesterday would be categorized as mysterious, today’s the day for tricky’ I opened the same container with lesser enthusiasm but this time to search for blackberries, and the yogurt looked like it had traveled for 7 hours on a bumpy road. For a second, I thought maybe the bacteria undid its magic.

I guess I’ll stick to my TJ’s Greek yogurt and get back to being the Achilles with my fork!

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